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A multilingual service from Diocese of Blackburn was chosen to feature as the national online service for The Church of England yesterday.

The service (available here) is led by Rev Sarah Gill, Vicar of Blackburn St Stephen and St James; and features the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson and the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, who also delivers the sermon. An audio-only version is here.

During the course of the new 45-minute broadcast – a cross cultural celebration of St Luke – there are spoken and sung contributions in Urdu, including traditional South Asian worship music.  

The service expresses cultural and ethnic diversity of Christian believers in the Church of England. Contributions also come from Rev Joanne Macholc, Assistant Priest of Blackburn St Stephen and St James; David Lloyd, Worship Leader at St Stephen’s; children from St Stephen’s CofE Primary School, Little Harwood and Janet Chester, Churchwarden and Worship Leader at St James’. The participation of Canon Dr Herrick Daniel from Lancaster also adds rich African Christian presence in this cross-cultural service.

Rev Sarah said: “As I continue to minister in cross-cultural context in the Church of England, I realise that Christians from different racial and cultural backgrounds are a great asset in The Church of England.

“We share with the wider church the testimony of our faith nurtured and lived in the most difficult social and political circumstances.

“I feel privileged to work in this country and I hope that my presence becomes enabling both for me and others to confess that the love and saving power of Jesus in not confined to any particular culture, race or to regional boundaries. The worldwide Church is engaged in building God’s Kingdom.”

Bishop Jill, who chairs the Diocesan Online Resourcing Group, commented: “In my sermon I highlight the acceleration we have seen during lockdown. Acceleration in relationships – people coming together to work for the common good; acceleration in the use of technology – as parishes respond in an agile way to technology – with three out of four now offering some kind of online worship and acceleration in the Gospel, as I find I’m reaching the point of talking about Jesus much faster during everyday conversations.

“Our pioneering monthly multilingual services by Rev Sarah Gill, called to England from Pakistan, are further fruit of this acceleration; reaching across our Diocese and now national and international boundaries. This is a wonderful reminder that Christianity is a global faith and we can be refreshed by the inspiration and great faith of our brothers and sisters. I am delighted the services have been recognised and amplified in this way.”

For several months now the Diocese has produced a multilingual service – in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English languages with songs that include several South Asian languages – once a month as part of its now regular (since lockdown) cycle of weekly online services. All the services are still available on the Diocesan YouTube channel.

Rev Sarah initially made a service contribution in English and Urdu as part of local online activities for the Diocese to support the national Church of England ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative in May. An invitation then followed in July to produce a full stand-alone multilingual video service for our Diocese. This proved so popular it was given its now regular monthly slot, which subsequently caught the attention of the national Church and an invitation to submit yesterday’s special new service for the national audience.

Bishop Julian delivers The Blessing at the close of the national service. He said today: “There is a strong South Asian Christian presence in our Diocese and in other Dioceses around the country.

“The service which Sarah prepared reflected perfectly the richness that people of different heritages bring to our congregations and to our worship. The body of Christ was truly represented in the service and it was a joy to be a part of.”